Friday, November 26, 2010

#204 Fargo (1996)


Director: Joel Coen

Cast: Frances McDormond, Steve Buscemi, William H. Macy, Peter Stormare, Harve Presnell, Steve Park, John Carroll Lynch, Kristin Rudrud, José Feliciano

The Coen Brothers' widely-disputed "true story" about a North Dakota kidnapping case turned murderous in the year 1987–it's a folksy, you-know-the-town-all-too-well kind of story.

Jerry Lundegaard (brilliantly played by Macy) is a poor sap working at a car dealership, secretly over-run by debt, and under the strong thumb of his wealthy father-in-law. He arranges for his folksy, midwestern "You betcha!" wife to be kidnapped, so he can split the ransom with the criminals, and start a business deal that will relieve his debt.

But when the two hitmen, Buscemi and Stormare, find themselves involved in triple homicide as opposed to just a single kidnapping, the whole rug begins to unravel. Enter Frances McDormand (the director's wife, mind you) who plays Marge Gunderson, another folksy character who would go on to win best actress with the Academy for this performance. A pregnant, slow-moving, and slow-talking police chief, she calmly steps weaves her way through the complicated mess. She is always 2 steps behind, but just close enough to make everyone nervous.

We watched as Jerry sweats out the complications of the chain-reaction he has started. His fumbly speech, his awkward manner as his brain spins in circles... so completely relatable and real that it can't be anything but brilliant.

Often described as a black comedy, it in some ways brought Little Miss Sunshine to mind. Even though that film is on a whole other level in terms of what brand of "comedic relief" is used, the parallels between Jerry (Fargo) and Richard (LMS) somewhat astounded me. Both even depend on a certain "Stan Grossman" to bring their wacky business deal to fruition. Was LMS a nod to the Coen Brothers?

Regardless, A+

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